A critical milestone in a child’s reading life is when they realize that print is all around them–the lit-up names on stores and the street signs and menus and in books–and that print carries meaning. When we show children that there are many reasons to read, and many places to read, and many ways to read, they start to understand the power of print. This realization often motivates them to want to learn to read themselves. That motivation is so important, because learning to read is hard work! Really WANTING to read will keep kids going if and when reading feels difficult.
We are all superstars at reading books in storytime, of course, and books are a primary means by which children make that print-meaning connection. Another way to help build print awareness is to think of other printed objects you could use or show in storytime. You could start with your books: does a character in the book go to a restaurant? You could bring in a menu to share and talk about. Does a character go on a trip? Maybe your local AAA will donate old maps for you to hand out and let the children explore.
Other possible props might be: letters or cards, a toy stop sign, a flyer for a program at the library, sheet music, a recipe, instructions for a board game, a gift tag from a present, a grocery list.
After you read your book, show the children the related prop and talk about it. Point out the words, and read some of them. Share with the children how we use and read the object to help us do things every day. You could tell them, “Isn’t this awesome? Words are everywhere and reading is everywhere, not just in books!”
Then tell the grown-ups, “When you point out all the times you read something during your day, your child learns that print is everywhere and that reading helps us do things. Understanding that we read for lots of reasons helps motivate children to learn to read for themselves.”